hooked on colour

I knit for many reasons but one of the biggest is for colour. The amazing variety of soft yarns we can find so easily at any yarn shop today was not so available when I became a serious knitter in the 1980’s. There was wool, cotton, some mohair and a lot of acrylic. I didn’t care so much because it was the colours that drew me into the shops. I had absolutely no respect for gauge or the consequences of combining fibres. When the lovely owner of my LYS at the time (anyone remember The Hill Knittery in Richmond Hill?) directed me towards Kaffe Fassett, I was enthralled. I knit several of his patterns in those years before having children and this is the only photo that I have.

This is my wonderful and so very beautiful aunt wearing one of my version’s of Jack’s Back Stripe from Kaffe Fassett’s Glorious Knitting. I recall using about 40 different yarns in this, combining some of them in an attempt to keep the weights somewhat similar. There was a lot of wool, some chenille, a lot of mohair, including one delicious ball that had strands of fuchsia hidden among the blues, purples, bits of black and green. Too bad none of that pink showed up in this picture! The dyer in me needs to take note of the fact that a knitter who loves colour can remember a truly beautiful skein 30 years after knitting it. I wish I knew where that skein came from. I just remember that it was expensive and I only had one and spread it out carefully through this sweater.

The sweater is long gone too. My aunt wore it for years but as it was knit loosely and side to side, it grew and it grew and it grew. She gave it to her much taller sister who wore it for a couple of years and then it was passed on to someone else who pinned up the sleeves and wore it as more of a robe. I have no idea what happened to the other Kaffe patterns I knit and gave away so many years ago.

I just bought the newest book by Kaffe Fassett and Brandon Mably – Knitting With the Color Guys. Do I really need this book? Probably not, but I have all of Kaffe’s other books and I love starting my day with a cup of tea and one of them, just flipping through the pictures. Over the years I have come to realize that while I love what he does with colour, we do not share the same colour preferences. At one point I purchased a number of his quilting fabrics but when I got home I realized that while I love what they do together, I don’t actually like the colours he uses. Too many yellow and gold undertones for me. I have learned from that expensive experiment and now like to use his ideas with the shades and tones that I love. This quilt was a lot of fun to make and I love the overall effect but if I were to do it again, I would only use fabrics that make me happy. I think I loved 10% of these fabrics and tolerated the rest because they made the project work. Now I would make sure those statistics were reversed! I am still slowly sewing my way through that part of my stash!

I keep thinking it is time to knit another colour explosion but then I look in my dresser and see that as much as I love to work with crazy amounts of colour, I like to wear pretty simple things – except for my socks and mittens. Maybe I should use the colour inspiration with my sewing machine and make another quilt or doctor up some jeans for my daughter. We are having our first burst of spring after a dull and dreary winter so I will get things blooming on my needles and sewing machine to inspire the outdoors!


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what’s another seven years of sitting on the shelf?

I haven’t been online much lately as if every coughing fit was a skein of yarn, I could knit my family a house cozy for Christmas this year. Having asthma and a cold and a damp, mildewy kind of fall is a vert bad combination. The cold is long gone but my stomach muscles have been getting quite the workout for the past few weeks with all this coughing.

This cough has been keeping me up at night so lots of knitting is happening. I started the Squares Around cardigan about seven years ago and knit like crazy for a couple of weeks and then put it in the closet for some reason. I have no idea what it did to get itself banished like that but I pulled it out yesterday and realized I only have about five more inches to knit, the button band and then a little steeking before it is ready to go. This sweater could be on my back before December. Steeking scares most people because that is when you cut holes in your knitting to make room for the sleeves and for your head to go through – and to make the sweater a cardigan instead of a pullover. I admit that it did have me sweating the very first time I did this to a sweater but now I kind of like it. It means I get to knit in the round (speed knitting!) for the entire sweater and then just pop the pieces and spaces in where they need to go at the end. It is my version of living dangerously.

 

I have one problem with this sweater and it isn’t the cutting and it isn’t even the fact that I am not sure I love this pattern or style the way I did seven years ago when I cast on for the sweater. It is that seven years have gone by and I can’t exactly find all of the yarn I need to finish it. The two colours I was using for the row I stopped at were still attached to the sweater so I definitely have those. I found two other colours of the same yarn (Philosoper’s Wool 2 ply) and so I have been able to carry on into the next section – but nothing else. I have searched through my stash and I am worried that this means I have a stash of yarn so secret even I don’t know where it is or else I forgot what the yarn was for and either gave it away or knit it into something else. I can do five more rounds before I will have to stop again and come up with the rest of the yarn to knit the last few rounds of brightly coloured squares and the rainbow button band or else the sweater will have to return to its shelf until I come up with more yarn.

Just how long is the shelf life of a sweater-in-progress?

jumping in at the deep end

I just can’t take a hint. While returning the yarn that doesn’t want to be a cozy cardigan to my stash yesterday I came across another yarn that looked ready to become a different sweater. A quick search through my patterns brought up this and I cast on happily. All seems to be going well although the dark colour is a little hard to knit with during these grey days. We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see if it goes.

So what would you do if even simple socks and hats were not knitting up properly for you time after time? Some friends have suggested I try a scarf, a nice plain scarf in a pretty yarn to see if that gets me back on my game. Someone even suggested a nice plain dishcloth – but with my wonderful Enjo to clean everything from my sinks to my dishes to my fruits and veggies to my self – I don’t think so. I did exactly what got me to love knitting so much in the first place. I started knitting something fussy and a little challenging in a very fine yarn. Maybe the fact that I have not successfully knit anything simple in over a month is a sign from the knitting goddess that I need to jump in at the deep end with an intricate pattern, very fine yarn and some slippery needles. No more plain vanilla socks for me for a while, no ordinary hats, no garter stitch scarf. I have started a Swallowtail Shawl. I’ve had the pattern around for ages and I bought the yarn I am using at the Woodstock Fleece Festival a year ago. The yarn is 70% baby alpaca and 30% mulberry silk so it will be lovely and soft and beautiful when it is done.

Here it is now – and in case you are wondering, lace always looks like a really ugly mess until it has been washed and blocked. Maybe the secret is for me to work on something that is guaranteed to look awful until it is well and truly done and I can be surprised with the very end result instead of trying to make something that looks like, well, like what it is supposed to look like as I knit.

 

Wish me luck.

 

so what is a knitter to do?

If you know me, you know I love to knit. I don’t just see it as an enjoyable pastime to pull out on a snow day or those last few weeks before Christmas. I knit all year long. We only get one or two weeks of scorching hot humid weather a year where I live and even during those hot and sticky weeks when all of my fellow Canadians are revelling in having a different kind of weather to complain about, you will find me knitting something small like a sock or a mitten while I am at the beach. You see, that way I will be all set when the cold weather returns a few weeks later. I keep it small in summer because as much as I like knitting, no one wants a lap full of wool in July. Besides, if it is too hot and humid, wool tends to felt as you knit it. I see that as the wool’s way of telling me it likes to hibernate in the height of summer.

Everywhere I go, I knit. That is what purses are for, I have decided, to carry knitting projects and a little pouch of knitting tools, and since I already have the bag ready to take along, I might as well toss my wallet and keys in there too. I knit while waiting for my kids in the orthodontist’s office, when visiting friends, waiting for a haircut, I have even been known to get a few rounds of a sock done while waiting in a particularly long line at the grocery store. A few years ago our family made a trip across Canada. We drove 10,000 km and I knit this along the way. It took about 100 hours of knitting and I loved every stitch of it.

The entrelac knitting you see at the top of this blog page is something I knit when I was still a fairly new knitter. I didn’t care that it was supposed to be challenging, I just wanted to make something beautiful and so I tackled it.

So what happened? I have been happily and successfully knitting for most of my life and I seem to have lost my touch. Sweaters, shawl, mittens, socks, toys, hats and scarves have all come off my needles happily over the past few decades. Now I suddenly find myself unable to produce anything! In the past month I have started mittens, a cowl, a hat, socks and a simple sweater, and every one had to be ripped out and put aside for another project. Just this weekend I cast on for the same sweater four different times and even though I did a gauge swatch and carefully counted and measured each time, I got a vastly different sweater-in-the-making – none of which I could have worn. The first two would have fit around three of me. The third attempt seemed promising until I realized I had made a huge error and either had to rip it back or else reattach one of my arms to be right beside the other one. I decided to go with the yarn rip rather than the arm rip. I thought through all of my mistakes and even though I was tired of re-knitting the same thing yet again, gave it one more go and was hopeful to get a lot of it done today – and wouldn’t you know? This version would probably fit my 14 pound Lhasa Poo perfectly. I gave up and returned the yarn to the stash. It doesn’t want to be this sweater, apparently. And frankly, I don’t want to look at it again for awhile either. I just looked up and saw that I knit the sleeves for the sweater first – and wouldn’t you know, they are too long by about eight inches. Great.

My project today, in between working and caring for three sick kids home from school while my husband is away, is to figure out what I can knit. As much as I love the actual knitting part, I love it when all of that yarn action actually turns into something beautiful and warm for someone to wear. I don’t love it enough to just keep ripping it all back. Besides, if I lose my knitting mojo, what am I going to do with all of this?